Follow-Up Q&A on Women’s Heart Health

Hope, Health & Humor is an annual event hosted by the Penny Anderson Women’s Cardiovascular Center at MHIF, focused on gathering with women from different backgrounds to learn more about heart and vascular disease in women in our community.

This fall, our event featured a panel of women cardiologists answering heart-health questions from attendees. We wanted to share perspectives on a few questions we didn’t get the chance to answer at the event:

What is lipoprotein(a) and is there any current research on it?

According to cardiologist Dr. Baechler, lipoprotein(a) (Lp(a)) has been associated with a slight increased risk of developing coronary artery disease. It is a very hot topic in prevention right now, but at this time there are no ways to effectively reduce Lp(a) – and no certainty that reducing Lp(a) will reduce cardiovascular events. The current understanding of Lp(a) levels is that they are entirely genetically linked, so family history plays a significant role.

Lp(a) is an atherosclerotic risk factor for heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease. While screening for Lp(a) is recommended, there is currently no drug treatment approved to reduce cardiovascular risk through lowering Lp(a). MHIF has a research study with a new injectable investigational medication that is known to reduce Lp(a) levels. The theory is that reducing Lp(a) levels could slow down or even reverse cardiovascular disease and cardiac events. This trial is looking for volunteers with established cardiovascular disease (e.g., history of heart attack, stroke or peripheral arterial disease). If a participant meets screening criteria, they would be randomly assigned to take either the investigational medication or placebo. All participants enrolled in this trial would be followed for up to 4 years (could be less depending on when you enroll). Participation would involve an initial visit to review medical history, provide consent and labs; after that, research visits in clinic would occur every 1-3 months. Visits are every 6 months after the 24 month visit. If you think you may be a candidate for this study, please contact Irena Davies at 612-863-4393.

At this point, Lp(a) is only one factor in evaluating someone’s overall risk of developing heart disease. The current ACC/AHA prevention guideline recommends estimating 10-year atherosclerotic (plaque buildup) cardiovascular disease risk using a risk calculator. It can forecast the potential impact of different interventions on individual risk. Interventions can then be tailored for each person. If measured, Lp(a) level can be used as risk-enhancing factor.

Ask your doctor to help you estimate your personal risk. Your treatment plan may include medications and lifestyle behavior changes to manage cholesterol, blood pressure and weight. Quitting smoking is also critical to improving your heart health. Together, you and your doctor can come up with a treatment plan specific to your needs.

How can patients find resources of support after a major heart procedure? Specifically for mental well-being, connection with fellow patients?

Research shows that women who have support make better recoveries from heart events. Here are some resources for support after a major heart event:

If you are feeling ongoing challenges with mental well-being, talk to your health care provider and get a mental health consultation sooner rather than later. You are not alone!

The Penny Anderson Women’s Cardiovascular Center is advancing the understanding of heart and vascular disease in women, how to prevent it and how to optimize patient care.